WILD BILL
DRIVES THE STAGE
by
Ridgewell Callum
&
Cuthbert Clarke (1918)
Billy Bennett
 It was Bill that bossed the outfit, and Job's Flat knew its man.
He'd throw a bluff and back it, as only a live man can.
He was chock-full of hell inside, and as mean as a she coyote
For the feller who'd hurt a hoss, or a dog, or a kid, or a woman's repute.
He'd 'straddled' the fill of a jackpot when the news reached Minkey's Saloon
That a gang had held up the gold stage that very afternoon.
They'd robbed it for thousands of dollars in dust, the work of a week,
The keep of the women and kiddies and the boys of Suffering Creek.
He was raging mad as he pitched down his hand and quit the table dead,
But he gave no sign of the thoughts he had lying aback of his head,
Till the day came along when he handed it out, chalked on a slab of wood...
'You can tote your dust on the stage today, Wild Bill's standing Good.'
But even then there was none of 'em guessed the things about to begin,
Till ten thousand dollars of horseflesh swept round from the barn... then their grin
Changed like a streak of lightning and the `hooch' drained out of their brains,
For Bill was hunched in the teamster's seat, clawing the bunch of reins.
His eyes never quit those horses, and it made you wonder... well...
He looked like an evil image on the trail of a red-hot hell.
He'd a halo of guns round his middle, and his eyes froze you through to the bone
P'r'aps he was reck'ning the game out - the game he'd to play alone.
With careless jest they loaded the chest,
Bill passed his horses the word,
They leapt at their bits, stark mad for the run,
Their prairie blood full-stirred.
Across the flat to the hills beyond where the pine-trees rake the sky
Bill raced his team with a master hand at a pace you'd hate to try.
Far in the hills the hold-up gang were waiting their golden haul...
With merciless guns and coward hearts, bloodsteeped beyond recall.
On came the thunder of racing hoofs... and each man held his breath...
As Bill flung his team with fearless grip deep in the jaws of death.
Swift as a flash the scene was changed by a rain of speeding lead,
The leaders swerved from the broken trail, and the 'wheelers' pulled up dead.
Astride of the chest that held the gold of the folk he'd sworn to serve,
Cold as a 'berg from a Polar flow, Bill crouched with an iron nerve.
He hadn't a care for chances, tho' the odds were one to eight:
He was drunk with the scent of battle and the fire of a deadly hate.
A hail of lead swept down on the head of the man whose law was the gun.
His flesh was ripped and his lifeblood dripped as he shot 'em one by one.
The vicious yap of his barking guns ne'er ceased from their screech for blood
Till five stark bodies had yielded life there on the crimsoning mud.
Shot up in twenty places, bleeding and broken in limb, 
Hunched like a crouching panther, savage and ready to spring.
Like the swirl of a raging blizzard the bullets round him sang
Till he'd sent the last to his reckoning: the last of the hold-up gang.
He raised a hand to bloodblind eyes, and smeared 'em clear with his sleeve,
His brain lived on while his body drained... holed like a human sieve.
Out of the silence there came a sound like the sigh of a soul that's lost;
A shuffle of desperate movement, with its tale of the awful cost;
Of a victory well and truly won, of a cruel wrong set right,
A half-dead thing, Bill clutched his seat... even with Death he'd fight.
With shaking hands he blindly groped in the box beneath his feet,
He sought a rawhide picket rope and lashed him to his seat.
The reins made fast to bloodstained wrists, 'By God! my hands shan't fail
To drive you home, my beauties.' Again he hits the trail.
The miles flew by under speeding hoofs of a team that asks no rest.
The man they knew was behind them, helpless, and needing their best.
He lolled about... a broken thing... scarce life in his ghastly face
For Death was sitting beside him, and Death was making the pace.
The shades of night in the City were lit by the twinkling stars
The lamps on the wooded side-walks and the garish light of the bars.
When out of the far off distance came the rattle of speeding wheels
And the ghostly race of a team nigh spent, with terror lashing their heels.
Jolting and swaying behind them came the stage from Suffering Creak;
Pitched like a storm-tossed vessel it flashed thro' the town like a streak.
On to the barn beside the bank... how well they knew that place...
Right to the door... not a yard beyond... Bill's horses finished the race.
The boys rushed out with lanterns, and found Bill there in the seat
Held by the rawhide picket rope, the gold chest safe at his feet.
He'd fought his fight to a finish, no matter tho' riddled with lead,
He'd pledg'd his word... he'd kept it...
He'd driven for three hours... dead! 
The end